Wednesday, 25 March 2009

POEM: Tower of Babble

There are two things that frighten me –
sex and dying.

Although both offer a peculiar beauty,
I’m afraid of the process of dying, and the state of not existing,
in the same way that it unnerves me the control and power sex wields
and its ability to blemish and erode

Sometimes, as I stand on this bridge overlooking the motorway,
leaning against its railings with my eyes shut, battered by the surge of a biting
wind whistling in my ears and clawing my skin like a fearless feline,
I wonder what would happen if I jumped –
leapt over the iron barriers and became a ‘jumper’?

I imagine I’m on a trampoline, bouncing high, higher
ready to spring off into the swirling abyss,
but I can’t grasp it, what it might be like to no longer be
this flesh wrapped around sinew and bones,
arranged to form the DNA that is me,
this shell which over time
is destined to perish

then I think of the ladybird and how it scuttled
up the length of my arm; the plasticine I moulded
into a heart or a shape resembling a ginger bread man;
my first kiss with a boy called Ellis at an end-of-year school disco
when I thought no one would propose – but he did ask me for a dance,
I said ‘yes’ and at the end he kissed me. I remember he tasted of liquorice...

to choose the abyss would be to erase all these memories
and that scares the hell out of me, because doesn’t the sum of our memories define us?
Who am I without these details – the gorgeous, the grubby, the gaudy?
Each experience: a stitch that is part of the grand design that is my life...

I will stop being me, and yet there are things that make me ponder about dying.
Is there an art to death? Will the angels break my fall as I imagine they would have done if Jesus had taken up Lucifer’s challenge and flung his weight off a precipice? Would they catch me or let me land in a s-p-l-a-t on the ground, watch as my blood is given over to the soil.

Dog to dust...
Ass to ashes...

Life begins the cycle of dying,
all the cups of peppermint and fennel tea
I’ve consumed; all the rows with my father whose hurts
squeezed the joy out of my innards; the prank I played when I covered
Dan’s entire room with old newspapers; the time I sprained
my ankle and was out of action for six weeks; the sexual encounters I’ve indulged in (I once read that sex is a metaphor for death) – all to come to a nought on this bridge...

The people I wished I’d known: the burly man with the beard
and eyes that smiled at me as our gazes met across Kings Cross escalators;
the larger-than-life waitress who served me a mocha at the Starbucks
in Ladbroke Grove; the youth who picked up a fiver that had escaped my handbag
and fluttered to the floor of the corner shop in Wood Green;
the pensioner who held my hand in hers at St James Church boasting a wafer-thin smile...

so many missed opportunities to give more meaning to a life gone sour

the confusion of the Tower of Babel,
the babble in my tower is confusing me
as I contemplate if there is life after death?

Catherine Mark


Michelle said...

Yes indeed. Very deep.

Lilly Jones said...

Sad and frighteningly real.
I think many people have these sort of thoughts and feelings. Mine is a wave of melancholia, so very deep as Michelle describes it when it comes. Take care of yourself sis... love always, Lil

Running Through Time said...

Thank you so much for your thoughts regarding the matter of life and death. I gained such insight from your writing as where would all the memories I carry go...they would go with me. You have truly spoken to my heart.

Strawberry Girl said...

Sex, "it's ability to blemish and erode..." yes I get this. But it also has the power to build. A multifacited organic union of two passionate and commited souls. So cheapened by the culture of convienence and disregard for the soul, of everything. Sex is life and death...

Calli said...

Very intense, and so meaningful. I love the way in which you express so many facets of life all in one poem. Babble or not, I think it's grand! ;)

Sarah said...

Intense, dear. There's a whole lot of complexity here, which I very much appreciate!

Continue to write for me, please? :)

lissa said...

things to think about when you think you have reach the end, perhaps? it is frighting to think of one's demise but I try not to if I can, it's a thought that runs through one's mind often and never in a good way...probably why some people choose to close out the world

rebecca said...

Very complex, Catherine, and very well written and thought-out, as usual. Your writing is simply magnificent.

I like the title and the way you used the poem as a metaphor to the Tower of Babel.

Melissa Barrett-Traister said...

Good evening,Catherine.
I always enjoy reading your work.
You are totally fearless,and that is inspiring.
I agree with previous comments that the title of the poem is on point,as it serves as a metaphor too.
Thanks for sharing your poetry!:)

Lilly said...

I get it, I do. I love your writing and maybe it all points to the same thing - its a risk which could have unintended consequences. Endings and beginnings. Love the way your mind works and your thought processes. As Lilly says its real. I dont find it sad at all. You feel things strongly Catherine and you have a gift. Keep writing. I wish you much gorgeousness in your life, you bring that to us through your writing.

Cynthia said...

Hi Catherine, yes I agree it's the
memories, good and bad that mold
us into who we are. Though, the
horrific memories should be laid
to rest, swept from the mind.
Thank you for this honest, thought-
provoking poem.

Mike Smith said...

Wonderful stuff - not only that post but your blog. More power to your keyboard!

Mike S

Rogue said...

But, of course there is life after death Cath. Sometimes, you must simply trust.

CathM said...

@Michelle: Hmmmmm... thanks :)

@Liily J: Yes – I think the feelings I describe here are symptomatic of a fallen and/or decaying humanity.

@Running Through Time: I’m so glad that you got something out of this post. Sending you positive thoughts and prayers for the week ahead!

@Annie (Strawberry Girl): Indeed, there is so much beauty in sex when it is ‘pure and life-giving (i.e. affirming)’...

@Calli: Thank you for reading my babble, Calli :)

@Lissa: Totally agree, Lissa. In fact, I wish I thought less about these things (lol). Too much pondering on this stuff can bring one down and make one lose sense of their purpose and direction in life!

@Rebecca: Thank you for your encouraging comments.

@Melissa: ‘Fearless... and inspiring’ – thank you!

@Lilly: Yes – life in all its beauty and magnitude is full of pain and risks... and, I guess this is what I try to communicate in all my writing.

@Cynthia: Indeed, there is a time for ‘letting go’ of the ugly memories... although, sometimes when you think you’ve gotten in top of a bad memory/experience – it rears its ugly head again at the most inopportune times (smile)!

@Mike Smith: Thank you for stopping by and leaving such a positive comment. I hope you visit again soon!

@Rogue: ‘Sometimes, you must simply trust’ – indeed, that mustard seed faith (smile)...

English Hopeful said...

Ok...This one is by far my favorite of your work. Perhaps because I always think of things like this, or perhaps because you have a way with words that I am so jealous of. Who knows! I can tell you that I wanted to just keep reading it, over and over. I love how you reflect on memories and how all this seemed to be a train of thought while standing on the bridge. Amazing how one moment or place in your life can make you suddenly realize the value of that life, isn't it?

judith ellis said...

Dear Catherine,

I love your writing for its honesty and beauty. Thank you. As I read your words I thought of a couple of things. Isn't it amazing how we become so attached to our very existence that the very thought of not having it often frightens us? I think this is why scripture tells us to wear the world as a loose garment. I admit that this is easier said then done. I remember thinking about life and death very early on in Middle School, but without morbidity or fear, even during the most trying times as an adult.

Wearing the world loosely does not mean that we are not to value life. We should. "It is the gift of God." Instead, for me, it means that our existence is not flesh and bone alone; it not about us alone. We should not get wrapped up in ourselves or others. The great existentialist and atheist, Sartre, writes of a very spiritual principle: "being in the world for ourselves" and "being in the world for others." Life is an experiential journey; it is not the collection of memories. Everyday matters, not because one day we will someday cease in body, but for the very privilege of the journey with all of its beauty and pain.

When you spoke of Christ's temptation on the mountain, I immediately thought of all of the voices that often try to convince us to disregard natural law. Satan’s attempt was to disprove God’s natural law of gravity and the Son of Man as God. “Tempt not the Holy Spirit” was Christ’s response. Upon the earth, He was human as we are. Christ would have splattered like you or I, for it was the spirit of the request that mattered, one of contempt and rebellion.

The significance here to me was to thwart Christ’s destiny, as our often is by a dare, often appearing in the sweetest manner. Satan appeared to Christ rather innocuously just as such thoughts often appear to us. But the result would have been devastating for Christ as it would be for us too. Remember, He was to be our greatest examples and we are to be “followers of Him as dear children.” This does not, by the way, have anything to do with religion. He came destroy such.

“We are gods,” dear Catherine. Spiritually, we exist eternally. Our bodies are not the extent of us. This evening and every evening thereafter I wish for you the warmest embrace and all that is good. Do wish the same for me.

"As He is in the world so are we."

Peace and Love,


Linda S. Socha said...

Intense, Brave, real and extremely well written.

Cath I would like to tag you for your 25 influences. Can't wait!
Check out Psyche Connections for the most recent post.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful poem, Catherine. You write very well. First time visitor here, I will be back, for sure. I love your "favorite" scripture on your blogger profile-

"Favourite bible verse: “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38, 39)."

That's one of my fav's also :)

Hey you need not fear sex and death - all part of life.

Great blog ya got here!

Marvin D Wilson

CathM said...

@Silke: Hmmmmm – another ‘ponderer’ like myself (smile)... thanks for your comments! ps I wish I didn't think/ponder life so deeply and just went with the flow more readily - it's a huge shortcoming of mine (sigh)!

@Judith: I definitely needed this reminder... to ‘choose and embrace life’ – THANK YOU!

@Linda: Thank you... I’m looking forward to participating in the ‘tag’ – it’ll be fun especially as it’s the first time I’ve ever been tagged!

@Marvin: I love love love that Romans scripture (smile)! Thanks for visiting my blog, commenting and joining in as a ‘blogging comrade’... I’ll be popping by your blogspace soon :)

kenflett said...

This is really beautiful, brave, sensitive, your memories sparking my own memories.
l like it.

CathM said...

@Ken: I just luv’ your visits... you are always so generous with your comments. Thanks for following my blog :)